Friday, November 30, 2007

This Month in Fantasy Sports - November

As we may recall, the past two months, I have done a spotlight on one of my Fantasy Hockey Teams.  As you may not recall, I made a few changes last month, and at the end of it all my roster was as follows:

C - LeCavalier, Jokinen, Staal, Prospal,
RW - Jagr, Guerin, Radulov, Knuble, Goddard
LW - Holmstrom, Brown, Brashear, Clowe
D - Rafalski,  Campbell, Redden, O'Brean, Aucoin
G - Nabokov, Budaj, Price

IR - Schneider

Further reminder that every day you can dress 3 each of C, RW, LW, G, plus 4 D, and 2 other Forwards.  Also, that skaters get points as follows:  1 G, 1 A, 0.75 +/-, .5 PPG, .5 PPP, .5, SHG, .5 GWG. .5 PIM, and that goalies get 2 points for a win and 3 for a shutout.

Over the course of the past month I made the following changes:

Drop - Add

LW  Clowe - C Gratton
Activate D Schneider - LW Brashear
D O'Brien - RW Clarkson
RW Clarkson - LW Chimera
RW Guerin - RW Lupul
C Gratton - C Carter

So once again, a fair amount of moves, however this time it seemed to centre around a handful of players.  After Clowe went down with an injury, Chris Gratton was added, and he gave some dividends, racking up a bunch of penalty minutes, with the odd goal here or there, however the temptation for Jeff Carter was too much to handle.  Carter has played well at both ends of the ice, and his name keeps floating in trade rumours, so I expect him to explode if he moves teams.   After I raved about Shane O'Brien last time, I realized that I had one to many D-Men after  Schneider came back so I let him go for another goon upfront.  However, after a few days I noticed that I had cut two left wingers, and even with Prospal being awarded dual position eligibility, I was short on my west side.  So I went back to a solid two way player that I had originally drafted (and subsequently cut) in Jason Chimera.  He has been doing really well at both ends of the ice playing for one of the league's most surprising teams so far.  Lastly, Bill Guerin was slumping of late and really starting to add up on the minus side of things, so I went with the rising Joffrey Lupul.

I was offered a trade for Carey Price, but I plan on sticking to this guy for a little bit longer.  Well for now at least, I'm sure I could have him lured away for the right amount of help up front, but I have a soft spot for Price, and my arm may take some twisting to want to give him up.

The biggest boost to my team came from Yahoo themselves, when they changed the positional eligibility of the players.  They recently updated it so that many forwards can be used to play at multiple positions.  This has helped me immensely as both Brown and Holmstrom are able to play Left or Right Wing, while Prospal is able to play Centre or Left Winger.  This gives me something that I never had before, options.  It is incredibly helpful as it lets you get more of your forwards playing on any given night, and since forwards are the ones who score most of the goals, it is immeasurably helpful.  So my advice to you this month, is pay attention to positional eligibility!!!!  A centre/left winger is far more valuable than just a straight centre, since they can increase your chances of getting more players (and therefore more points) on any given night.

Just so you know, I am currently 80 points ahead of 2nd place in the league, I topped out at 90 a week ago.  My Christmas wish is to be 100 points ahead of 2nd place...But who know, maybe I'm dreaming, but sometimes miracles do happen.  Take care and happy pooling!!!

Until next time,

G

Stars Week Concluded


All good things must come to an end. After reflecting on some pretty awesome songs for the past six days, I now have no more reason to continue to talk about one of my absolute favourite bands on this planet. The other night I had the distinct pleasure of going to see Stars, and boy oh boy was it a show!

I'm not going to bore you by describing every little detail, or give you a set-list (mostly because I can't remember it or find it anywhere on-line), but suffice to say that it was a great time. They mostly played songs from In Our Bedroom After the War, which is not at all surprising. The highlight of those songs was when they were playing "The Ghost of Genova Heights", Torq came out with a suit covered in lights, playing the part of the ghost. Also, the title track "In Our Bedroom After the War" came across with a special kind of passion live.

They also included all of the favourites from Set Yourself on Fire, including "Ageless Beauty" and "What I'm Trying to Say", but there were two songs from that album that were especially amazing. When they played "On More Night" I was amazed at how loud the crowd was signing along. Torq also dedicated that song to his old gym teacher saying that it was about people "having sex with him until he dies", to a rousing (albeit morbid) ovation. However the highlight came when they played "Your Ex-Lover is Dead". The crowd erupted with noise when they began playing that one and everyone in the building belted the song out until the band turned their microphones to the crowd for the "Live through this, and you won't look back" section. It was simply amazing.

My own personal highlight came during the bands encore presentation. As I mentioned in my last entry, my favourite song of theirs is "On Peak Hill", however I was convinced that they wouldn't play this song from their first album. However, that didn't stop my from hoping that every time they said "This song is called..." that they would finish that sentence with "...On Peak Hill". After playing a few songs for the encore they asked if they could play one more song, and to my surprise and amazement they played "On Peak Hill". It totally made my night complete as I was smiling from then on.

After the concert was over, I realized something. I spent the entire night with a big smile on my face, singing and feeling gooey on the inside. I think that this can only mean one thing, that I have a crush on this band...I'm not if it's healthy, but I'll be damned if it isn't fun.





My two tickets to paradise



Awesome rock-out

Tell me she isn't amazing??



My Angel of Rock


And here are a few more videos that I've found on this wonderful thing called the Internet...

Reunion






Elevator Love Letter



One More Night



Bonus of Amy Milan covering "I Will Follow You Into the Dark"




Until next time,

G

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Stars Week Prolonged -- On Peak Hill


Well Stars Week continues a little bit longer here, with a favourite song of mine. I have spent the past five days talking about ex-lovers, apologies, on-line dating, child rearing, and those three special words, but all I've wanted to talk about is a magical place called Peak Hill. To help with our enjoyment of this truly enchanting song, is this great fan-made video...




The rain fell hard on the roofs that day
You telephone from far away
I see the ocean from my room
All I could say was "are you coming home soon?"
The static whisper in my ear
But in a moment your voice was clear
"I need some time," you said to me
That's when I knew you were gonna make me lonely

You're gonna make me wish for the time right before I was born
When every living breath was another new dawn
Like the time I was 5 at the top of Peak Hill
And the wind almost took me away

You're gonna make me wish for the time right before I was born
When every living breath was another new dawn
Like the time I was 5 at the top of Peak Hill
And the wind almost took me away

I walk awhile before I sleep, count the secrets that I keep
I hope for more, I know for sure I fall apart before I weep
I disconnect the telephone, cause I can choose to be alone
I'll get more done, I'll have some fun, pretend you're not the only one

And I'm never gonna wish for the time right before I was born
When every living breath was another new dawn
Like the time I was 5 at the top of Peak Hill
And the wind almost took me away

You're gonna make me wish for the time right before I was born
When every living breath was another new dawn
Like the time I was 5 at the top of Peak Hill
And the wind almost took me away

-- Lyrics courtesy of Lyricsmania.com

Having your heart broken is a horrible, horrible experience. It leaves you weak, bitter and alone. Many, many songs have been written on the subject, but few capture it so well with such a light rhythm and innocent lyrics as this one.

With the light synth notes and the powerful, yet simple line of "you were gonna make me lonely" this song just feels childish. The harmonizing that Amy and Torq perform during this chorus makes the song sound like it belongs in a fairy tale.

The words they use in this song are so simple and to the point, "you're going to make me wish for the time right before I was born", is almost infantile in its approach to heartbreak. It is so natural to wish that a relationship never happened. However, these feelings tend to be cast aside as immature. This song does something that few others dare to do, it dares to be immature.

Near the end of the song, there is a hint of overcoming the adversity when they say "I'll get more done, I'll have some fun, pretend you're not the only one" and then they change the chorus up by saying "And I'm never gonna wish for the time right before I was born". However, a stanza later they go right back to the depressing chorus, showing us that maybe they weren't empowered after all. This is an admission of failure in the healing process, and certainly not the actions of a mature, healthy individual.

While this is far from the first song written about break-ups, and probably far from the best. However, it certainly ranks among the most daring, as it is able to make the victim appear as a smaller person, which is certainly a rarity.

Whenever I get around to making a second round of Music to Wallow to, I know that I will include this song, which I am ashamed to say I had not heard when I made the first list. While this, and any songs of its kind, are meant to be downers, they are an important part of any healing process. It is important to be honest with yourself and your emotions, and few songs are as honest as this one.

Until next time,

G

Monday, November 26, 2007

Stars Week, Once More -- What I'm Trying to Say


Now that all four albums have been represented here during Stars Week, it's time to give Set Yourself on Fire a second dose. After looking at sad songs for the first four days I'll take a break and look at a great synth-filed, up-beat poppy song, enjoy "What I'm Trying to Say".




You look so good in the clothes of a poser
And when you smiled all the kids fell apart here
I know a place where it's warm and it's dry, dear
Let me take you there

North of the river all the streets are the same
We can pretend that they don't know our name
And the heat is turned all the way to full
So don't pretend that you don't feel the pull

I am trying to say
What I want to say
Without having to say
"I love you"

You look so good in the shoes of an outcast
I kissed your throat every time they said it wouldn't last
But then I knew you, I knew you, I knew you
I really knew you

We fell apart in the parties of the empty heart
We danced the junkies in the shadows of bad modern art
We clicked our heels and we wished we were home
One more tab and your silk hits the chrome

I am trying to say
What I want to say
Without having to say
"I love you"

I am trying to say
What I want to say
Without having to say
"I love you"

Springs comes in when I'm rolling up another one
I draw the curtains in the glare of the same old sun
We are collapsed in the act of just being here
Three blues, two greens and a beer...
We are collapsed in the act of just being here
Three blues, two greens and a beer...

I am trying to say
What I want to say
Without having to say
"I love you"

I am trying to say
What I want to say
Without having to say
"I love you"

-- Lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com

Three words can say so much, yet so little at once. They can move mountains, or make the world stand still. They can fly so effortlessly from your lips, or awkwardly fumble out of your mouth. They are the hardest words to instigate but the easiest to retaliate. They are the words that we never tell to everyone we need to. They are "I love you".

The man in this song is clearly in love, as he struggles with his ability to express himself. While he does not want to say the dreaded three words, he is able to get this across with such words as "So don't pretend that you don't feel the pull" and "We are collapsed in the act of just being here", which so vividly expresses the emotions that he is trying to convey.

The first three days of Stars Week were about ambiguity and double meaning, and yesterday was about disappointment, this one is about another common theme in Stars songs, growing up. I don't have earth shattering memories of the first time that I ever told a girl that I loved them, but that's because when you are young, it's too easy. Every time you say it to someone new, you get a better understanding of just what it means, and therefore it gets harder and harder each time.

After you have been hurt once before it is so much harder to open up your heart, and tell someone how you really feel. Due to the increased difficulty, there is a desire to find alternate methods of expression and a need to skirt around the issue. However, it is once you have been hurt before that you need to let someone else in even more. While it is harder, it is even more important to find the words and say just what you are trying to say.

Until next time,

G

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Stars Week, Yet Again -- The Very Thing


In the first three installments of Stars Week I have examined a song off of a different album each time. The trend continues today, as I take a look at a song off of their debut album Nightsongs entitled "The Very Thing". While there was no official video for this song, there is this excellent fan made video featuring clips from Kramer vs. Kramer.




The bar closes early on the Sabbath day
So me and my kid, we hit the park to play
Then it starts to rain, so we walk home again
He asks why he was born, I don't know what to say
I don't feel guilty and I don't feel sad
This motherfucking life is the best he's had
I said "I've been there, sonny, and it ain't that bad
I took my hits from the shits back when I was a lad"

So long ago, and even though I tried
I couldn't make him see
The light that he had cast in front of me
And even though I cried, I couldn't make him be
The very thing I needed

His mother would make a scene when I come home late
She looks like she's dying and she's twenty-eight
I never loved that whore, I never will no more
Except for a month back in '84
The jammin' was playing and my heart stood still
Gazing at her shadow on the windowsill

So long ago, and even though I tried
I couldn't make her see
I wasn't quite the man she thought I'd be

And even though I cried, I couldn't make her be
The very thing I needed

And even though I tried
I couldn't make her see
I wasn't quite the man she thought I'd be
And even though I cried, I couldn't make her be
The very thing I needed

Could she be the very thing I needed?
Could she be the very thing?

Push yourself away from your one best friend
Who's gonna love you when you reach the end?
Who will?
Who will?
Who will?

--
Lyrics courtesy of Lyricsmania.com

There is one reaction that everyone fears getting from someone. It is not anger, not hatred, not even sadness. Oh no, it is far worse that that. It is disappointment.

Unlike the first few songs I have examined, this one has a relatively simple, yet powerful message, disappointments suck.

While, thankfully, I have never had to deal with being a negligent father, I can relate to the disappointment that echoes throughout this song. The main character (sang by Torq) identifies with a heavy heart not only the disappointment that he casts onto others ("Even though I tried/I couldn't make her see/I wasn't quite the man she thought I'd be"), but also the disappointment that others give him ("And even though I cried, I couldn't make her be/The very thing I needed").

Perhaps the saddest part of the song though is the line "Could she be the very thing I needed?", which is said after repeating many times that she couldn't be the very thing that he needed and that he "Never loved that whore". This is exceptionally sad, because after giving and receiving so much disappointment, he begins to both accept and expect it.

As sad as heartbreak is, I think that someone staying in a relationship where they aren't happy is far worse. To be with someone who you don't love for want of a better alternative goes beyond tragedy. It is just plain disappointing.

Until next time,

G

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Stars Week Still -- Personal


The week long examination of one of Canada's best, and most underrated bands continues! The first day, I looked at their most famous song, the second I looked at a great old one, and today, I look at a great little ditty off of their most recent album, In Our Bedroom After the War. I'm happy to present you with another unofficial video, followed by the lyrics. Warning, this song is not for the faint at heart.




[Wanted:]
Single f, under 33, must enjoy the sun, must enjoy the sea
[Sought by single m:] Mrs.Destiny, send photo to address, is it you and me?

[Reply to single m:]
My name is Caroline cell phone number here, call if you have the time
28 and bored, grieving over loss, sorry to be heavy but heavy is the cost, heavy is the cost

[Reply to Caroline:]
Thanks so much for response, these things can be scary
Not always what you want
How about a drink? The St.Jude club at noon?
I'll phone you first I guess
I hope I see you soon!

I never got your name, I assume you're 33
Your voice it sounded kind
I hope that you like me
When you see my face, I hope that you don't laugh
I'm not a film-star beauty
I sent a photograph
I hope that you don't laugh...

[Note to single m:]
Why did you not show up?
I waited for an hour and finally gave up
I thought once that I saw you, I thought that you saw me
I guess we'll never meet now
It wasn't meant to be
I was sure that you saw me, but it wasn't meant to be

[Wanted:]
single f, under 33, must enjoy the sun, must enjoy the sea
Sought by single m:
nothing too heavy, send photo to address
is it you?
or me?

--
Lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com

In my previous two entries, I discussed the dichotomies contained in each of the two songs, "Your Ex-Lover is Dead" is part somber, part empowering, while "Heart" is part forgiving, and part settling. Well today I break that pattern. This song is just sad.

Personal adds either in newspapers or on-line have always intrigued me. I must say, that I have never used that service, but I know plenty of people who have, many of which will swear by it. Whenever someone mentions that they met someone on the internet through any sort of dating service there are always a few who snicker behind their back and talk about how "pathetic" it is and how they "couldn't find anyone better". I personally don't care, love is a strange thing and finds people in strange places, be they real or cyber.

While the song doesn't specifically state that the two are meeting on-line, it seems obvious given the ease in which Caroline can send "Single m" a picture, and given the nature of our society, if it is not on-line, it doesn't make a huge difference to the storyline. The two characters agree to meet in person after seeing one another's adds. While the obvious sad stories and concerns that people have about this sort of thing revolve around the other person being creepy and/or dangerous.

However, in true Stars fashion, this song looks at it from a different dimension, and as usual there are multiple ways to look at it.

The obvious one is from Caroline's point of view. She is nervous and scared, since she is "grieving over loss", and so she sends a picture to "Single m". However, she is clearly very insecure that he may not find her attractive, and so she shows up to meet him but he never comes. She is convinced that she saw him at one point, although there is no mention that she ever got a picture of him, or else perhaps she would have said more than "Your voice it sounded kind".

Whether Caroline saw him or not, her story is a sad one. She puts herself out there and gets rejected, never an easy story. Now Caroline, clearly has some other issues with her self-confidence and has more than likely had some relationship troubles before ("grieving over loss" yet again), and so being rejected, will no doubt make these issues even worse. It doesn't matter why "Single m" did not show up, in some part of her mind it will be because she is either unattractive or just not that interesting.

Now on the side we have "Single m" and any potential for his tragedy. After my initial listen to this song I was convinced that he was someone who tried to pick girls up on the internet all time, and took advantage of poor Caroline. However, upon repeated listening and reflection I think that there is a chance for a deeper character than that.

While the song follows Caroline's anxieties, it is entirely possible that he felt the same way. Single m specifically says "these things can be scary". So maybe, just maybe, he was too scared to meet up with Caroline, and so he backed out of it all. This would explain the repetition of his personal ad at the end. He was scared, ducked out and decided to repost and try again.

I realize that the second thought is far less likely, but there is still that certain ambiguity in the song. In the first two I looked at it was emotional ambiguity, now this time it is a lack of clarity in the story itself.

While this is often frustrating, in the context of this song (and the others) it adds a whole other dimension to the plot, leaving things for you to pick up each time you listen to it. Now that is of course a heavy contrast from the majority of music out there, which is so simple and to the point that you really only need to listen to it once to understand it. Illustrating the point once more that Stars are among the best bands out there right now, their songs have depth, which seems so simple, yet, as the music industry shows us every day is so hard to get.

Until next time,

G

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Stars Week Continued -- Heart


I started Stars week with a look at perhaps their most famous song. Today I look at a much lesser known, but equally meaningful song. It is the title track from their second album, Heart. Just like last day, here is the (unofficial) video, followed by the lyrics.



Time can take it's toll on the best of us
Look at you you're growing old so young
Traffic lights blink at you in the evening
Tilt your head and turn it to the sun
Sometimes the T.V. is like a lover
Singing softly as you fall asleep
You wake up in the morning and it's still there
Adding up the things you'll never be

Alright, I can say what you want me to,
Alright, I can do all the things you do,
Alright, I'll make it all up for you,
I'm still in love with you,
I'm still in love with you

Time can take it's toll on the best of us
Look at you you're growing old so young
Traffic lights blink at you in the evening
You tilt your head and turn it to the sun
You disembark the latest flight from paradise
You almost turn your ankle on the snow
You fall back into where you started
Make up words to songs you used to know
So...

Alright, I can say what you want me to,
Alright, I can do all the things you do,
Alright, I'll make it all up for you,
I'm still in love with you,
I'm still in love with you,

The hard luck god
You never had a chance you know
Incurable romantics never do
He held the flame I wasn't born to carry
I'll leave the dieing young stuff up to you
You get back on the latest flight to paradise
I found out, from a note taped to the door
I think I saw your airplane in the sky tonight
Through my window, lying on the kitchen floor.

Alright, I can say what you want me to,
(I want more)
Alright, I can do all the things you do,
(Give me more)
Alright, I'll make it all up for you,
I'm still in love with you,
I'm still in love with you,
(I want more)
Alright, I'll say you want me to,
(Give Me More)
Alright, I'll do all the things you do,
(I Want More From You)
Alright, I'll make it all up for you,
I'm still in love with you,
I'm still in love with you


-- Lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com




Sometimes there is nothing harder to say than sorry. Seeking forgiveness requires you to admit that you were wrong and that you regret your actions. This is especially convoluted in the context of a relationship, where there are many more emotions at play.

As usual, Amy Milan and Torquil Campbell are able to capture all of the emotions flawlessly. The verbal interaction between these two express a deep, and eloquent longing. Torq starts out as the sad one, stuck with only the television to fill the void of his departed love. Then Amy Milan's angelic voice comes in with a deep sense of regret and a desire to fix all of their problems, admitting that she would "say what you want me to".

What gets me the most about this song is the feeling that both of the characters in this song are stuck in a rut. As Torq says that Amy "falls back into where you started/Make up the words to songs you used to know". Also, in the end, there is a slight hint that Amy is settling in a relationship that she may not want to be in and giving in to Torq's guilt and clear love.

However, the true beauty of this song is in its ambiguity. Similar to "Your Ex-Lover is Dead", it is one of those songs that you could probably find two very different meanings to, depending on your mood. Are you sad and want to win that special someone back? Or do you feel guilted into staying in a relationship that you may not want to be in? Either way this song is for you.

Yet again, this song by Stars runs the full emotional gambit, in a brave, yet eloquent way. This is exceptionally important when it comes to apologizing, because it is such a hard thing to do to, so you may as well do it right the first time. In a true musical rarity, this song does it right the first time.

Until next time,

G

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Stars Week Kick-off -- Your Ex Lover is Dead

Greetings and salutations all. While today is Wednesday, I am officially dubbing it the start of the week here at Getting Glenergized. In one week, I will have the pleasure of going to see one of the best bands this country has to offer, Stars. So as my own personal countdown I will be looking at some of their songs and talking about what they mean to me. So whether you know the band or not, buckle in because the next days should be an epic musical journey...



As you can probably tell from the graphic, the first song I am going to look at is probably their most famous one, "Your Ex-Lover is Dead". So before I start, here have a watch of the video
and a read of the lyrics...






God that was strange to see you again
Introduced by a friend of a friend
Smiled and said 'yes I think we've met before'
In that instant it started to pour,
Captured a taxi despite all the rain
We drove in silence across Pont Champlain
And all of the time you thought I was sad
I was trying to remember your name...

This scar is a fleck on my porcelain skin
Tried to reach deep but you couldn't get in
Now you're outside me
You see all the beauty
Repent all your sin

It's nothing but time and a face that you lose
I chose to feel it and you couldn't choose
I'll write you a postcard
I'll send you the news
From a house down the road from real love...

Live through this, and you won't look back...
Live through this, and you won't look back...
Live through this, and you won't look back...

There's one thing I want to say, so I'll be brave
You were what I wanted
I gave what I gave
I'm not sorry I met you
I'm not sorry it's over
I'm not sorry there's nothing to save

I'm not sorry there's nothing to save...

-- Lyrics courtesy of AZlyrics.com


The second I heard this song I was hooked. After hearing this song, I put it on repeat, with each listen I broke down the lyrics more and more deliberately. At the risk of sounding cliche and trite, I feel that this song was sang directly to me.

This song just so genuinely captures all of the feelings of a break-up so very eloquently. So many break-up songs fall into one of two categories, the empowering ones, or the wallowing ones, this song is able to find a genuine, and very rare, mix of the two.

The repeated line of "Live through this, and you won't turn back..." expressing the suffering that the characters in the song are going through, but it contains the promise of a better time. While the earlier lines of "
It's nothing but time and a face that you lose/I chose to feel it and you couldn't choose" really convey the essence of a relationship breakdown. One person falls so deeply in love, while the other person himms and haas, staying at a distance. This is such a realistic contrast to the usual "You were horrible" type lines that permeate so many songs about breaking up.

While break-ups inevitably suck, there is still a conflicting emotion, as you clearly felt something for the other person at one point or another, despite the current situation. This song does a fantastic job of mixing the empowering with the melancholy, and switching between the two with the lyrics, the tone and the pace, in a seamless manner.

This is one of those amazing songs to listen to late at night when you are thinking about someone from days past. When the song reaches it's zenith and Amy Milan's angelic voice chymes in with "I'm not sorry I met you/I'm not sorry it's over/I'm not sorry there's nothing to save", then the song is able to pass through the last step in the grieving process, acceptance as closure is finally attained.

I guess I feel that this song spoke to me so clearly, because I found it at a very crucial time in my life, when I was ready to move on. Sad and angry songs are great, but they don't ever deal with the root of the issue. I had heard this song, and the band before this crucial stage in my life but I wasn't all that into them. But it was when I heard this song at that very crucial point in my life that I became hooked. While I know that I searched out this song, I can't help but feel that it found me when I needed it the most. Oddly, this will be a very common theme this entire week.

At the point that I became enamored with this song, I was ready to finally let go of anything that I was holding onto. I was ready to just move on with my life and not let anything hold me back. This song is an integral part of a soundtrack for those brave enough to confront the gambit of emotions that go along with a break-up. If you're not ready for this song, don't worry, it will come to you when you are...

Until next time,

G

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Robots are Taking Over!!! One Species at a Time

Pardon the paranoia, but I recently dugg up this little ditty. So forgive me if I'm a little scared of our mechanized friends at this moment.

For those of you too lazy to click on the underlined blue text, you've got a lot of nerve. But it is a link to an article on the National Public Radio website about a recent experiment involving robots and cockroaches. To summarize, the scientists were able to make a robot infiltrate cockroach society and guide any group decisions. They did this not by making robots that looked like cockroaches, but by making robots that smelled like cockroaches, seeing as how scent is their primary sense.

This little smelly robot was originally programmed to prefer dark spots to rest (a typical cockroach trait) but then after collecting some data, they changed it, making it prefer lighter nesting places. This influenced the other roaches and had them follow the robot into the lighter areas.

While I think that this is simply fascinating, and I realize that there is enormous potential in having us unlock knowledge about animal societies, I do have my concerns. First off, I think that it is scary to think that scientists are able to program a machine to think like an animal. Sure, cockroaches are pretty dumb, but today if is just insects today, what is to stop it from being fish or birds? And if fish and birds are ok, then what about pigs and cows? And then if those are ok, then what about dolphins or, heaven forbid, humans.

The thought of having a pre-programmed robot infiltrate human society should scare the crap out of you. Sure it's something that we may not have to worry about for a while, but still, it's a creepy, creepy thing! I don't want to end up falling in love with some girl, only to find out that she's actually a machine in disguise! And to fully integrate into human society they would probably be programed to NOT know their true identity, since it would be some sort of a give away.

Maybe I'm just a technophob, but I have serious concerns wondering just what kind of future artificial intelligence hold for us. In fact I think it could probably look something like this...




Yeah Han Solo is in all of my visions of the future...

I guess the fact that I chose that trailer explains my point perfectly. I have seen too many movies where technology goes horribly wrong. For every Blade Runner, Matrix, Minority Report, Dr. Strangelove, or even Jurassic Park there is a warning about something horrible that could go wrong. While I don't plan on taking any blue pills any time soon, I can't help but wonder just what potential for disaster there is any attempt to push the limits of human ingenuity.

While the gains are potentially monumental, the loses are potentially catastrophic. Because if someday a scientist is able to duplicate a human brain and have them infiltrate our society then we have lost something huge. We lose our identity, we lose our ability to be human if someone out there is able to make something "More Human Than Human".

Until next time,

G

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Heel Heat - Episode 4


Tenacious Trav (TT): Greetings Sports Entertainment Fans!

Gorgeous Glen (GG): Welcome one and all to Episode 4 of your favourite irregularly scheduled dose of wrestling, fact, fiction, and follies. The one, the only, HEEL HEAT!!!!!

This evening marks a fall tradition, the 21st annual Survivor Series. While this is something incredibly exciting, there are a few things that we need to discuss first. First off, after months of speculation and hints, it appears that the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah, Mr. Chris Jericho will be returning after 2 years tomorrow on RAW. What are your thoughts on this one TT?

TT: I'm cautiously optimistic on this one, Double G. The product is seriously hurting lately and I think the return of someone of Jericho's stature could certainly revive things. The problem I see here is that they've squandered so many cool opportunities in the past that his return might be wasted too. There's been a lot of talk of if this return will match his initial debut on Raw when he squared off verbally with the Rock. Quite frankly, you can't capture lightening twice... so who cares if it matches that. The first five minutes won't be nearly as important as whatever that first program is for him. The fans are sure to be behind him, so you've got to wonder who they'll throw against an incredibly over face. Though Orton needs a competitor like Y2J, I'm worried it'll start with someone like Umaga and it'll be an opportunity wasted. Your thoughts?

GG: It's not often that I give you credit, but TT, but I think that you raise a good point. This (re) debut will not be as good as his first one, because frankly, there is nobody on the RAW Roster who can hold a candle to the Rock on the microphone. The only one who is close is Cena. While I think that a Jericho-Umaga feud could kick all sorts of ass, I don't think that it's a good idea at first.

I have a feeling that Jericho will interrupt a Randy Orton celebration ceremony and we will get a fresh Championship feud, because, really, there is nobody else for Orton to feud with right now. While it would do wonders for Orton, I fear that unless Jericho takes the title (even for a 1 month reign) that it will squander his momentum right away. In an ideal world, he would interrupt someone like Santino Marella, the two on the mic would be golden and it would give them both a meaningful match at Armageddon before they could both move on.

TT: Personally, I feel Jericho / Carlito would be a money feud, but it appears Carlito is on his way out. Another big waste, unfortunately..

GG: I never even thought of that one...I guess it goes to show how far Carlito has fallen recently! Such a shame, so much talent, so much waste...on both sides really...

Secondly, last week, CNN did a documentary on the WWE and completed a suspect editing job on John Cena. They took a comment of his out of context and made it appear that he was a steroid user, despite vehement denial on his part. What are your thoughts on this one?

TT: Well, as a person with a public relations background, I'm surprised that Cena wasn't better prepared for this interview. His initial answer was a flat out 'no I’ve not done steroids' type of response. He should've stopped there, but as so often is the case in these situations, he felt the need to say more, and in doing so, completely muddle his response. I'm paraphrasing, but he essentially said "you can't prove I haven't". This was incredibly vague and CNN had every right to air that bizarre response. In the replays they included his initial response which I think is the responsible thing to do. At the end of the day, though, Cena made the mistake in saying too much and he has to own that. Who knows what he's really done.. I find it bizarre that a guy like William Regal is on roids and Batista is not.

GG: Once more you have a good point..damn...you need to stop making those!!! While you are right that he probably should have stopped talking to avoid this situation (henceforth referred to as CeNNa-Gate), John is a very good public speaker and did a great job defending the WWE during the Benoit tragedy, so I am sure that he was trying to do it again here. Even though he is injured, Cena is clearly the face of the WWE, and a great choice to be in that role, because of situations like this. He was trying to defend not only himself, but every WWE Superstar. The "you're never going to prove that I have" bit was referring to the fact that people just don't seem to believe him when he says that he is not on steroids, due to the prevalence of masking agents and the sort. Also, I covered CeNNa-Gate a bit on the blog yesterday, but to restate my main point from that post, it's funny to me that the WWE, a company that churns out contrived storylines is appearing more credible than a company that reports the news.

TT: Well on that last point you're completely wrong. Let's get to the Survivor Series...

GG: Hmmm...I'm sure that Travis is on Ted Turner's payroll, maybe it was for supporting WCW so much...

TT: I was actually the first choice to play Bunkhouse Buck

GG: I totally believe that one...

For the sake of timing, I’ll listen to Trav, but that’s my only reason. Survivor Series is having its 21st annual event tonight, and it looks to be a pretty solid card for the most part. I guess I'll start with the crap first. The WWE is going to have the biggest height difference in any match in wrestling history tonight, as Ireland and India finally explode inside the wrestling ring. We will see Hornswoggle-McMahon takes on our favourite Punjabi freak of nature, The Great Khali. I see some sort of whackiness occuring, probably leading to some strange Hornswoggle win. But I am torn on this one as The Great Khali did a not-terrible job as World Champion for a while, so I don't want to see him lose to a leprechaun, but it is somehow inevitable. So I think that Hornswoggle will win via count-out after running around the ring a bunch and Khali will try and chase him only to get counted out. Or maybe we may see the return of Shane McMahon to help his half-brother win...yeah I'll reach out on a limb for that one.

TT: I think you're probably right. You can't deny that Hornswoggle is (unfortunately) really over right now. I believe your scenario of interference or a count out is really likely, but to keep things fresh, I'll predict Khali to win in a 10sec. squash. Speaking of crap, there's a women's match. As usual, I hate this garbage. Look for the Glamazon to win. Or not. Who cares.

GG: As usual, I remain optimistic for the Women's Division...I think that this match could actually be decent as long as they keep the wrestlers in (i.e. Mickie, Victoria, Beth, and Melina) and the bimbos out (i.e. the rest). Since this has not been announced to be an elimination match, I am going to go with an upset on behalf of the face team to set up Beth's next challenger. On RAW, we saw the return of lesbian-Mickie, which was super over a few years ago. So I'll go with Mickie getting the pin on Beth. However, if it's elimination, I would still have Mickie pin Beth but the heel team win, since they really are the stacked team.

TT: Stacked in what way? And lord help us if it's elimination.

GG: Come on an elimination match could be fun. Have Beth kill four of them dead, eat a surprise pin by Mickie, and then have Mickie job to say Melina, setting up an easy triple threat for the Title involving Beth-Melina-Mickie. Speaking of Mickie James, the WWE recently added a match involving her latest love interest, Trevor Murdoch and his partner, Lance Cade, defend their World Tag Team Titles against the unlikely duo of Hardcore Holly and Cody Rhodes. I think that there is still a lot of room to develop the Rhodes-Holly and Murdoch-James storylines, so there is no need to rush through either of them...let's go with the Rednecks retain here involving something whacky involving Mickie James.

Man...I can't seem to get enough of Mickie James...I think that I have a problem...

TT: There's no accounting for taste. And as has become a common theme on Heel Heat, you're dead wrong. The tag division is so stale that even pigeons won't peck at it. Survivor Series will see the grandson of a plumber and the former Thurman Sparky Plugg take the win tonight against the Rednecks. The Rhodes/Holly storyline was kind of dropped lately and I hope this will recharge it and get some momentum going for the young up and comer.

Speaking of tag teams, on Smackdown we saw the Miz and John Morrison defeat the champs, MVP and Matt Hardy. Tonight we'll see the new champs square off against each other and ECW champion, CM Punk. This could go so many ways... one of the heels could win and it would bridge the MVP/Hardy storyline to a new team, with the heels doing a lot of one-upsmanship. Instead, though, I see CM Punk retaining for now. This keeps him strong and with their new titles, Miz and Morrison are still at the top of the heap as well.

GG: Ahh yes, the classic heel case of one-upmanship, kind of reminds me of our epic feuds does it not TT? Anyway, I don't know how much I like the fact that they moved the Tag Titles from one whacky team to another, but to each their own I guess. Heading into this week I was certain that Morrison would win, but after his altercation backstage with JBL, I'm not so sure. I hope that the WWE is smart and realizes that with all of the steroid charges that Mr. Straight Edge should be in line for a huge push. So I see that continuing here where he retains after some miscommunication between Morrison and The Miz. Hopefully we start to see CM Punk take on some of the Smackdown! Superstars for the title, for some reason I really want to see a Punk-Finlay feud after this.

On the Finlay front, he is a part of tonight’s 5 on 5 Elimination Match. I for one always love these matches as there is so much intrigue in all of them! The teams this year look particularly great as we have Triple H lead a team consisting of Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio, and Kane take on the team of Umaga, Mr. Kennedy (...KENNEDY!), MVP, Big Daddy V, and the aforementioned Irish Man. I think that there is some intrigue as to whether Matt will be able to participate after the beat down he received from MVP, but I think that he'll show up in this one. I know that the Face team is going to win, but it's a matter of who will survive.

I would personally love to see Matt Hardy as the sole survivor, but I know that's not going to happen...so I'll say that it's going to go like this...Matt pins MVP, Big Daddy V pins Matt, Big Daddy V and Kane get counted out, Kennedy pins Jeff, Finlay gets DQd on Rey for using the shillelagh, Rey pins Kennedy, Triple H pins Umaga, leaving Rey and H as the Survivors.

TT: Wow that was elaborate. Did you lay awake last night thinking that up? Quite frankly I'm not as excited about that as WWE would want me to be. It's just a bunch of independent storylines thrown together in a stew. I'm not sure who will eliminate who, but I suspect we will have one sole survivor and that will be the King of Kings, Triple H. On your knees dog...

So with the traditional match out of the way we're left with our two big championship matches (No offense, ECW). Let's talk about my boy Orton first. Tonight he squares off against HBK. Interesting stipulations here: if Orton gets DQ'd he loses the belt, and if HBK uses Sweet Chin Music, he loses and won't get another shot. I see my man Orton retaining his belt here, cleanly. It's time for someone to give him a clean win and let him stand tall as champ.

GG: You know full-well that the 10th Anniversary of the Montreal Incident can't go down without a screwjob. so I fully expect Orton to get the win here by some sort of nefarious means. I wouldn't be even the slightest bit shocked if Orton locks Michaels in the sharpshooter and the bell rings. I sure hope not though. I think that Orton will win, but it won't be clean at all.

As for the main event of the evening, we have one of the best feuds of the year culminate inside the most demonic of matches, the Hell in a Cell. Both men have been in the cell and have performed quite well in previous encounters. I fully expect this one to be like Taker-Lesnar, or Batista-H, just flat out bloody. Nothing fancy, no big spots, just a solid flat out brawl. These two match really well, so I also expect this to be among the best WWE Matches of the year. As for the winner, I'm really torn...I want to see the Deadman get the win here, but I know that the WWE is heading for Taker-Edge at Mania. And really, Edge should be the Champ heading into that one, so it would make no sense for him to beat Taker for the title to set up a rematch. So Batista wins the match and the feud.

TT: Well at least we agree on something. This will be a bloody brawl of an affair and I'm sure it'll be match of the night and a contender for match of the year. You're right - these two work really well together and they can tell a great story in the ring. I'm with you on the results, though maybe not for the same reasons. Batista gets the W tonight and leaves Survivor Series the champion.

All in all it should be a decent card. It gets me thinking about Survivor Series of past, though, GG... what is your favourite SS memory from days of yore?

GG: Well I'd be remiss to not mention Survivor Series 1997, the Screwjob totally changed wrestling as we know it, and did wonders to help the WWF beat out WCW. However, my favourite memory was probably the following year, during the finals of the Deadly Game Tournament, we saw the newly face-turned Rock take on McMahon's protege, Mankind. In an homage to Montreal, The Rock shocked the world by locking Mankind in the sharpshooter and McMahon called for the bell. This was great because NOBODY saw this coming at all. This set up the Austin-Rock feud which helped take the WWF to new heights and gave us some of the best main event matches ever. Also, it is one of the few examples of a "Double Turn" working out well. Truly a great moment of the Attitude Era!!! How about you TT?

Travis: That's a great episode in wrestling history, GG. I'm going farther back, though. One might expect me to talk about the Undertaker's Survivor Series debut in 1990, but instead I'd like to mention the PPV the following year. 1991 saw a team of Ric Flair, Ted DiBiase, The Mountie and The Warlord take on Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Virgil and the British Bulldog. This was a great card if for no other reason than my two favourite heels of all time were on a team together, and Ric Flair ended up the sole survivor. Add his involvement later in the evening to cause the Undertaker to win the championship from Hulk Hogan (he placed a steel hair under Hogan's head before the Tombstone dropped) and you've got a great historical evening. The Undertaker has had a consistent big level impact on wrestling in the 15 years that've passed, and it's awesome to see him main eventing tonight. If only the Nature Boy was on the card.......

GG: Somehow I knew that you'd mark out for the 1991 card...too bad Savage and Jake were both removed from the Main Event that year to try and sell the lame-ass Tuesday Night in Texas...as much as it pains me to, I will once again give you the last word...any closing thoughts at all Trav?
TT: I have a million thoughts, none of them closing. Thanks for having me on board for Heel Heat once again. It's nice to connect with all of my fans who've seen me walk through fire and smelled the smoke. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some small children to go yell at.

GG: Until next time,

GG

Responsible Jorunalism

Before you start reading know one thing. The title of this post is meant to be sarcastic, very, very sarcastic.

Last week CNN aired a special documentary on professional wrestling, that has created quite a bit of controversy of late. The main focus of attention has been the heavy editing that took place during an interview with former WWE Champion, John Cena. Here are both editions in one video clip.




Quite the difference, eh?

There are a few major issues that need to be addressed here. First of all, and most obviously is journalistic integrity. I have ranted before about a new agency pushing their own agenda as opposed before, so I don't think that I have much more to add here. Needless to say, I find it absolutely despicable that any network that refers to itself as "The Most Trusted Name in News" would blatantly violate any trust that they have. It really makes me worry as to what other stories that they are doctoring, and it makes me worry even more just who believes them.

I really have to wonder just why they decided to attack Cena like this. He is one of the few "good guys" in professional wrestling, as he has never tested positive for steroids, despite his excellent physique, and he manages to stay out of trouble. There are so many "bag boys" in the WWE, that they really did not have to attack Cena. The current WWE Champion Randy Orton, has failed several drug tests, has reportedly trashed a hotel room in a less than sober rampage, and harassed many of the female wrestlers. Or any of the wrestlers involved in the Signature Pharmacy Scandal could have been much, much easier targets than Cena.

But the biggest thing about this, is that through all of this, the WWE appears more credible than CNN. The WWE was outraged at CNN for this and has demanded an apology, and even gathered some media support. I find it incredibly ironic that in this showdown, a company that stages combat, shows violence against women, and produces some ridiculous storylines, including have a woman in her seventies give birth to a hand, is more credible than "The Most Trusted Name in News".

The WWE has earned a great deal of the criticism it has gathered over the course of it's history, but for once it is able to legitimately be on the giving , as opposed to the receiving end of it all. And if a company that stages fights, arising from contrived storylines through imaginary characters is able to be more credible than a world news provider, it kind of makes you wonder just what it is that you're reading now doesn't it?

Until next time,

G

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"We know we are going to win..."

In recent years Billy Goats, Bambinos, and Black Socks have been getting the bulk of attention for sporting curses, but a little over a decade ago, there was another sporting curse at the front of everyone's mind. This curse was so devious, so malicious, it did not even get a catchy name like all of the others, it was simply known as the Curse of 1940.

It all starting, surprisingly enough, in 1940 when the New York Rangers won their third Stanley Cup. Also in that year, the mortgage on Madison Square Garden was due to be paid off. So in celebration of both the championship victory and the financial freedom, the management of Madison Square Garden decided to burn the mortgage paper inside the Stanley Cup. The Stanley Cup has long been considered to be the most sacred Sports Trophies in the world, as such one can not do anything to defile it without consequence.

In the coming decades the Rangers would be a mark of futility in the NHL, consistently missing the playoffs, and in the rare cases they made it, they would rarely see much success. Making the finals only 3 times in over fifty years.

That would all change thanks to one man.

Mark Messier began his professional hockey career in the WHA playing for the Indianapolis Racers and the Cincinnati Stingers before being drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, now in the NHL, in 1979. Messier would play an integral part of the Oilers dynasty of the 1980s, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy when they earned their first Stanley Cup in 1984.

While Messier enjoyed a great deal of success in the 1980s playing alongside Wayne Gretzky, it was not until The Great One was traded in 1989 that Messier's status grew. After Wayne's departure, few gave the Oilers any chance, but Messier, the new Captain, was able to lead the Edmonton Oilers to their 5th Stanley Cup in 7 years in 1990 to the shock of the hockey world. Messier would also be award the Hart Trophy, as league MVP that very season.

After one more season in Edmonton, Messier was traded to the New York Rangers, were he would become a true hockey legend.

Already a respectable team, the Rangers grew drastically with the edition of Messier. He was immediately named Captain of the Rangers and guided the Rangers to the best record in the NHL, winning the Hart Trophy along the way. While the rival Penguins won the cup that season, the Rangers still had very high hopes heading into the 92-93 season.

But the Hockey gods frowned on the promising Rangers. Superstar defenceman Brian Leetch slipped on a piece of ice, injuring his ankle. Yes, you read that right, a hockey player got an injury slipping on the ice. Surely the Rangers MUST be doomed. As a result of this injury, and other mitigating factors, the Rangers finished last in their division and missed the playoffs. The hockey gods appeared to mock the Rangers, as their Original Six counterparts, the Montreal Canadiens, win an improbable Stanley Cup.

The Rangers would rebound very quickly the following year, earning themselves the best record in the National Hockey League once more. Along the way, the added a series of former Edmonton Oilers to join Mark Messier including Adam Graves, Craig MacTavish and Glenn Anderson. In the playoffs they made short work of the New York Islanders and the Washington Capitals in the first two rounds before moving on to their cross-town rivals, the New Jersey Devils.

The upstart Devils outplayed the Rangers in the first five games, going up 3-2 with crucial Game Six taking place in New Jersey. The Rangers, a team that just could not lose looked to be in trouble. Before the game, Messier's most famous moment came when he famously decreed "We know we are going to win Game Six and bring it back to the Garden."

Declaring imminent victory usually translates into impending loss in the world of sports, especially with 54 years of curses behind you. But even the hockey gods couldn't stop Messier's iron will, as the Moose went on to score a hat-trick in the third period and added an assist, leading the Rangers to a 4-2 win. The Rangers went on to win Game 7 in New York in double overtime, and they were on their way to a Finals berth with the Vancouver Canucks.

The finals truly was one for the ages, as it went a full seven games. Going into the deciding game the Canucks had the momentum, having won the previous two encounters. However in a thrilling winner-take-all game the Rangers won, with Messier scoring the winning goal. The image of Messier shaking with joy as Gary Bettman hands him the Cup has been immortalized in every NHL playoff highlight real. Lost in all of the excitment and curse breaking is the fact that Mark Messier became the first, and only player to captain two different teams to a championship in the history of North American pro-sports.

A few years later, Messier would sign as a free agent with, ironically, the Vancouver Canucks. However, Messier and the Canucks did not experience a great deal of success during this time, and when his contract expired in 2000 he returned to New York to finish his career. During the press conference to announce his signing, Messier boldly guaranteed that the Rangers would make the playoffs that year. He may have been testing the hockey gods, who he had angered six years previously, as this guarantee would not come true. The people of New York did not seem to care though, as Messier could clearly do no wrong in their eyes.

Mark Messier finished his career after the NHL Lockout as the second all-time leading scorer in both regular season and playoff points, trailing only his former teammate, Wayne Gretzky. As incredible as that is though, for all of his 1887 career regular season points, people will always remember the 4 that he scored that fateful night in New Jersey. When Messier did something so rare and amazing. He kept a promise.

Until next time,

G

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Human Cannon

Would you step in the way of a speeding bullet?

Most sane people would say no that question, and really can you blame them? There is one fairly standard rule in our modern world, and that is that getting shot is a bad thing, so you must avoid it at all costs. However, for 23 seasons in the NHL, goalies everywhere would have to step in front of bullets on a nightly basis. These bullets did not come from guns or cannons though, they came from defenceman Al MacInnis.

Al MacInnis began his NHL career with the Calgary Flames in 1981, while he was a great young talent playing for a great young team, he did have one major problem. Wayne Gretzky. MacInnis had the great misfortunes of playing for Calgary during the Oilers Dynasty of the 1980s. Regardless of how talented the team was they would always be regarded as the other team from Alberta as they saw their cross-provincial rivals repeatedly hoist Hockey's Holy Grail.

However, this all changed in 1989 when MacInnis helped lead the Calgary Flames over the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals. This season, MacInnis would become the only defenceman in league history to lead the league in post-season points, en-route to the Conn Smythe Trophy.This would also mark the only time that a team other than the Canadiens would hoist the Cup in the Montreal Forum.

During the 1994 season, Al MacInnis was traded from the only franchise he had ever known to the St. Louis Blues. MacInnis quickly settled into his new franchise, becoming a key component of the teams plans for years to come. Soon afterwards the Blues would trade for Chris Pronger, and the two would become one of the leagues elite shut-down tandems of the late 1990s. These two worked so well together that they would be repeatedly chosen to play along side one another for Canadian International Teams, a true testament to their talent and chemistry.

While the St. Louis Blues underwent a series of changes, MacInnis remained a stalwart for the team, helping them reach the playoffs for every season he played there. The Blues had a very talented team for the late 90's and early 00s, even winning the Presidents Trophy in 2000, but they had the distinct displeasure of playing the same Conference as the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, and Detroit Red Wings during this period, thus giving them less playoff success than they probably deserved.

Al MacInnis announced his retirement after the NHL Lockout. It should be noted that the St. Louis Blues have yet to make the playoffs since then.

MacInnis, will always be remembered for one legendary facet of his playing ability, his slap shot. He was able to win the NHL's hardest shot competition a stunning 7 times. Goalie Mike Luit once said that there are "two kinds of hard. There's hard, and then there's MacInnis hard." when talking about a shot from MacInnis which broke his helmet. Even more impressive about this was the fact that he hit all of his shots with old fashion wooden sticks, shunning the new composite ones.

While MacInnis is best remembered for his offensive abilities, he is 2nd and 3rd in Calgary Flames and defensemen scoring respectively, he did still possess a solid fundamental understanding of team defense. His leadership abilities contributed all of the necessary intangibles that allowed all of his teams to achieve a greater deal of success.

I could imagine that all around the league goalies are breathing a little bit easier now. They know that they only have to stop hard shots, not MacInnis hard ones anymore.

Until next time,

G

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Punisher

In the Marvel Comics Universe, The Punisher is a fierce anti-hero who has no super powers. He just has an intense work ethic and will do whatever it takes to get the job done. He uses a mix of brute force and intimidation to overcome his enemies. There is nothing flashy or exceptional about him, just raw power. If the heroes of Marvel Comics were to don skates and sticks and take to the ice then there is no question in my mind that The Punisher would be none other than Hall of Fame Inductee, Scott Stevens.

Scott Stevens started his career with the Washington Capitals where he was able to grow defensively under such players as Rod Langway and Doug Jarvis. After the 1990 season the St. Louis Blues signed him to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent, giving up 5 first round draft picks in the process. The very next season though, the Blues attempted to sign Brendan Shanahan of the New Jersey Devils, to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent. The Devils and Blues attempted to determine "fair compensation" for Shanahan, with the Blues offering Curtis Joseph, Rod Brind'amour and two draft picks, but the Devils wanting Scott Stevens. An independent arbitrator ruled in favour of the Devils and one of the most important transactions in league history was made.

Tangent Warning: Don't believe me that this was an important trade? Do you think that the Devils would have been able to win any Stanley Cups without Scott Stevens? Do you remember that there was a lot of talk during the 94-95 season that the Devils were going to move to Nasvhille, but after they won the cup they stayed? Do you remember that the Blues traded Shanahan to Hartford for Chris Pronger, the core of their team for several years? Do you remember that the Whalers traded Shanahan to the Red Wings in 1996, when he proved to be the missing piece of their championship puzzle? Really, the two biggest powerhouses of the inter-lockout era, the Wings and Devils, were either directly or indirectly made possibly by this very trade....tangent over...

Stevens earned the majority of his fame in New Jersey, captaining the team to three Stanley Cups between 1995 and 2003. However the majority of Stevens' fame comes from his reputation as being among the greatest open ice hitters ever. Need proof? Here is the Sports Centre top 10 Scott Stevens hits...




Scary, eh? Pay special attention to the hit on Eric Lindros, which essentially ended the career of one of the potentially best players the league has ever seen. (Do you think that would have happened if Stevens were playing for the Blues and therefore in the Western Conference and NOT meeting the Flyers in the playoffs?...I'm done tangenting now I guess)

Despite never being much of an offensive threat, Stevens was able to receive recognition on a repeated basis, playing in thirteen NHL All-Star Games, and being one of only six Defensemen to with the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Like the comic book fans who prefer the outer-worldly feats of Superman or The Flash, the majority of NHL fans have preferred the smooth skating and incredible stick handling of the Alexander Ovechkin's or Daniel Briere's of the world. However it is comforting to know that in the larger-than-life world of professional sports that the working class anti-hero still has a place in our hearts.

Until next time,

G

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mr. Underrated

Last night, the NHL inducted its class of 2007 into the Hockey Hall of Fame, with perhaps the most impressive class ever, featuring Ron Francis, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens, and Mark Messier. In honour of these four incredible players, I will be writing a post about each of them this week.

So without further ado, here goes the first one...
*****************************************

In life, there are those who seek results, and those who seek attention. In professional sports, this is even more magnified, as the media is very quick to turn a loud-mouth-hot-dog into an overnight sensation. While these characters, or should I say caricatures make for entertaining television, it is those who seek results that make for excellent sports. The first Hall of Fame Inductee that I will be remembering is the epitome of results over attention, and is perhaps the most underrated player of all-time.

Quick, who is #2 on career assists, trailing only Wayne Gretzky? Mario Lemieux? Nope! Gordie Howe? Sorry! Paul Coffey? Heck no! Why the answer is none other than Ron Francis.

Ron Francis has had an incredibly prolific scoring career, including three hundred point seasons. All the while excelling at the other end of the ice too, killing penalties, winning faceoffs, and even winning the Selke Trophy in 1995. But yet, throughout the prime of his career he was largely forgotten and cast aside.

Does anyone else remember the 95-96 season when Ron Francis was 4th in league points? If you said no then you are certainly forgiven, because you are in the majority of crowds there. While being 4th in league points is an incredible accomplishment and surely worthy of praise, it is easy to be forgotten when your two linemates, Lemieux and Jagr, are 1st and 2nd respectively.

That seems to be the way that Francis has spent his entire career, in relative obscurity. He started out playing in the NHL’s equivalent of Purgatory, Hartford, before being traded at the 1991 Trade Deadline to Pittsburgh. The addition of Francis (along with Ulf Sammuelson) is largely credited with putting the Penguins “over the hump”, allowing them to win back-to-back Stanley Cups. When budget cuts began creeping into the Penguins organization, Francis returned to the organization that drafted him. Even though the Whalers had relocated to Carolina, they were still by and large off the map, allowing Francis to once more sneak off the radar. While playing in Carolina, he was a pivotal part of the organizations first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002.

As the Hurricanes looked to miss the playoffs in 2004, they decided to trade away their captain to try and build their future, sending him to the Maple Leafs in March of that year. In a cruel twist of irony, the man who so desperately avoided the spotlight finished his career playing for the team at the centre of the hockey universe, retiring after the 2004 season.

I was always impressed with Francis’s non-nonsense approach to the game. His consistency and responsibility were a perfect counter balance to the flash and sizzle showed by Lemieux and Jagr throughout the 90’s. His grace and calm demeanor makes him a fantastic role model to any young player of his generation or before.

So as Ron Francis received his greatest honour any player can ever receive, being inducted into the Hall of Fame, he once more flew under the radar, with the majority of the attention going on the other three players. But don’t worry Ron, I’ve always thought that you are one of the best!!!


Until next time,

G

Monday, November 12, 2007

Better Late Than Never

Sorry I didn't make this post yesterday, but I was away from the internet. I just wanted to wish everyone a (belated) solemn and dignified Remembrance Day. Here are a few videos which explain my feelings much better than I ever could...






Until next time,

G

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Memories of Hanoi

A few months ago, I wrote a travel blog about my thoughts on Paris, since then I have yet to follow it up. With my most recent personal travel news, I have a new interest in traveling once more. So as a logical transition from Paris, I go to the capital of a former French colony, Hanoi, Vietnam.

I went to Vietnam last May, with the group of Nipissing students who I went to China with. From the second we arrived in Hanoi, I knew that I was in a place that was very, very different than anywhere else I had been before. It felt like a strange mixture of the hustle of Beijing, the charming grime of Paris, and the small-town feel of Eastern Toronto, and I liked it.

On of the city's most dubious of features was very obvious as the bus pulled in. Hanoi has horrible traffic. Our speeding bus slowed to a crawl as we entered the city limits. While in the sedentary position, we looked out to see a variety of speeding motorcycles and scooters weave between the standing traffic, a sight we would become all too familiar with.

After settling into our hotel, a few of us decided to head out and explore. We soon realized that crosswalks were either not present or merely a suggestion. I weaved between speeding cars, dodged motorcycles, stepped past scooters, and watched jaw-dropped as Vietnamese pedestrians navigating it all with ease. After calming myself and checking my pulse, I contemplated sleeping in a nearby park to avoid having to cross the street again to return to my hotel.

The next day, our group went to see some pretty phenomenal sites. We started out the day by going to see the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (pictured). If going to see the embalmed corpse of a communist leader is not enough of a cultural experience, there was a strict protocol to follow. First off, we had to leave all of our cameras, mp3 players, and cell phones with our guides since they were not allowed, and our bags were strictly searched. Secondly, there were guidelines for women’s dress, as they were not allowed to be showing their knees. A few of the girls traveling with us had to go and get their coats and wrap it around their waist to make it appear that they were wearing longer skirts. Lastly, and most shocking of all, the guards had guns. Not just guns, but big ones, with foot-long bayonets on them. All of the tourists had to line up in a staggered double file to fit as many of through the mausoleum as possible. As we entered, there we were told to be quiet and get our hands out of our pockets by threatening-looking signs, and even more threatening-looking guards.

The body itself was a pretty surreal sight. As a history-geek, I took a special interest in the Vietnam War, so seeing the body of one of the key players was a simply fascinating experience. He was flanked by several guards, with several more standing along the walkway. At one point, I slowed down to soak the sheer bizarreness of the moment, but I felt a very firm grip come on my arm, as I was moved to my rightful spot in the line. Judging by the size of the man attached to that arm, and the size of his gun, and the size of the gun’s bayonet, I realized that arguing with him was a bad, bad idea.

After leaving the Mausoleum I walked around surrounding grounds, which features the old Presidential Palace (pictured), Ho Chi Minh’s House and the On Pillar Pagoda. All very cool, but I felt that I didn’t appreciate it quite so much, since I was still absorbing my earlier experiences.

As amazing as the Mausoleum was, it really had nothing on my next stop, the Vietnam Military History Museum. The museum chronicles Vietnamese military history, with special focus on their War of Independence with the French and their war with the Americans.

The courtyard outside of the museum completely set the tone. There was an old tank and fighter jet silently guarding the entrance. There were plaques beside each of the military vehicles outlining each of their terms of duty and stating precisely how many French or American soldiers they killed and when. Growing up in a military town, I have seen all sorts of things like this, any old WWII plane has a swastika for every German they have shot down, but it somehow never occurred to me that a Vietnamese plane would have a star for each American plane they shot down (pictured).

As I entered the museum, things got even more surreal. I was absolutely amazed at the quality and quantity of relics and information presented. There were old battle plans, letters from the French Generals, and a variety of military equipment. What blew my mind even more was the incredible detail that they placed on everything. An old spear had a plaque said “Used to kill one black French soldier, and one white French solider”, while a helmet riddled with bullet holes (pictured) said “A sign of the inefficiency of the French”.

You would think that would be enough to digest right? Well then you would oddly be mistaken as the most startling part came soon afterwards. After you go through the museum you enter the back yard, which houses even more military artifacts, including artillery, tanks, and most obviously, a giant amount of wreckage from an American fighter that was shot down (pictured). There was a plaque outlining exactly when this plane was shot down and who was piloting it. It was interesting to see the wreckage juxtaposed with the anti-aircraft guns.

After wandering around the yard for a while, I came across the most somber section of the exhibition, a collection of bombs dropped by the Americans. There were easily a hundred bombs all supported on poles to walk around with. In the middle there was a large plaque with some frightening statistics. It mentioned how many bombs were dropped on Vietnam, and breaks it down even further to saying how he amount dropped per square kilometer, and the amount dropped per North Vietnamese man, woman and child. Later on it states how many people were killed and how many children were left orphaned. Then it goes onto explain how many people were left with permanent defects as a result of the defoliants used during this time as well.

Now I had read similar statistics before, but to read them surrounded by the bombs dropped in the place they were used made the statistics more than just numbers. History came alive. I commemorated it like someone commemorates any new life. I cried.

I realize that a downer like that is a strange way to encourage a new place to someone, but if you want to see history come alive and be able to put a place to some of the darkest moments of the twentieth century, then I could not recommend Vietnam enough to you. Even if you are not the history geek that I am, there is still a ton to do around there, and the weather is gorgeous, the people are great, and the food is terrific. What more could you want really?

Until next time,

G

Appendix: Links

Lonely Planet Info on Hanoi

Hostel World - Always Helpful
VietnamPix - A PHENOMENAL site dedicated to the Vietnam War